Buoyed by recent announcements from the likes of Google, Microsoft and IBM, quantum computing has been a hot topic over the last few years. And as organisations such as these detail the ways in which businesses can leverage such technology, it looks as though cloud-based quantum computing is set to become one of the most important matters for IT and tech leaders in 2021.
But what exactly do we mean by cloud-based quantum computing? And how can the capabilities proffered by these tech giants supposedly benefit other businesses?
Here, we’ll look at cloud-based quantum computing in greater detail to see how it may be able to enhance processes across a range of different industries in the future.
What is cloud-based quantum computing?
So, what do we mean by the cloud-based capabilities of quantum computing that’s whipping the tech world into a lather right now? First, it feels necessary to define quantum computing.
Compare a regular computer, which stores information – whether it’s numbers, text or images – in a series of 0s and 1s. Each unit in this series of 0s and 1s is called a bit; a bit is therefore set to either 0 or 1.
A quantum computer, on the other hand, does not use bits to store information. Rather, it uses something called quantum bits (qubits). Compared to regular bits, each qubit can be set to 1 and 0.
So, while quantum computers aren’t about to take over and render traditional computers obsolete, they’re expected to be a different tool that can solve the complex problems that regular computers can’t.
Right now, quantum computing is mostly about running quantum computing simulators on classic computers to develop algorithms and programs. These will be able to run on quantum computers when they’re viable; even though much has been made of their hype, quantum computers have limited functional value at this moment in time.
These simulators are used to validate the computations of current quantum computers to assess their ability to gauge how close we are to having machines that work in practice. And increasingly, cloud services are being looked on as the method for providing access to quantum processing.
What will cloud-based quantum computing be used for?
While uploading and running quantum software as easily as any other type of cloud workload is an attractive idea, the extent to which cloud-based quantum services can do this is a little limited.
At the minute, the quantum cloud services offered by the tech giants provide two types of solutions. One uses software emulators to simulate a quantum computing environment, a service that doesn’t offer anything close to quantum performance.
Since they’re still hosted on conventional hardware, your code will only run as fast as it would on a regular computer. However, the simulators still allow programmers to test code they’ve written for quantum computers – an undeniable boon for businesses looking to get ahead of the curve when working on quantum applications.
The other solution included on quantum services is access to actual quantum hardware. Through cloud services like Braket, Azure Quantum and IBM Quantum Experience, it’s possible to access real quantum computers through the cloud.
This makes it easy for anyone with a public cloud account to access quantum environments without the need to work directly with a quantum hardware vendor or figure out how to set up your own quantum simulation environment.
That said, while you can take advantage of real quantum hardware, said hardware is still in development. Based on current progress, it’s likely to be many years before it’s possible to connect directly to a real quantum computer through the cloud.
So why should we care about cloud-based computing?
Sure, easy access, production-ready quantum computing is a way off, but it’s still an exciting prospect. For starters, it can make a difference in the fields of implementation and error correction. And, as more familiarise themselves with the technology, the benefits will come to fruition sooner.
Right now, emulators and simulators provide a way to test quantum coding and software, while quantum computing itself offers a direct interface to quantum circuits and quantum chips, thus enabling the final testing of quantum algorithms.
We can already see the benefits as to cloud-based quantum computing in certain applications too. Businesses and academia can practise by using quantum computing on the cloud without having to wait for quantum computing technology to become truly widespread. Particularly, cloud-based quantum computing is used in several contexts, such as:
- In academia, teachers can use cloud-based quantum computing to help their students understand quantum mechanics, while also implementing and testing quantum algorithms.
- In research, scientists can use cloud-based quantum resources to test things such as quantum information theories, perform experiments and compare architectures.
- In games, developers can use cloud-based quantum resources to create quantum games, thereby introducing those unfamiliar to quantum concepts.
CDL is one of the UK’s leading IT disposal companies, working to help private and public businesses and organisations safely retire and recycle their outdated IT assets. To find out how we could help your business, or more of the latest tech news and advice, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0333 060 2846.